ELDORET North MP William Ruto yesterday said MPs will shoot down the proposed Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission unless the selection process for commissioners is transparent. Ruto is among MPs who have questioned why qualified members of the now superseded Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Interim Independent Boundaries Review Commission were not shortlisted for interviews to the IEBC. "It will fail in Parliament.
We can say that the old commission continues unless an acceptable commission is in place," Ruto said yesterday while campaigning in Kisii. "We will not allow a person to set up an electoral commission to declare himself the winner in the 2012 elections. We did that with the old commission and paid a very heavy price and burned our fingers," he added.
Interviews for IEBC commissioners ended yesterday, and the selection panel led by Dr Ekuru Aukot starts interviewing candidates for chairman today. Aukot was the former CEO of the Committee of Experts that prepared the new constitution. The bone of contention has been how the candidates were shortlisted.
Ruto and opposing MPs believe that the applications of qualified but independent minded commissioners were rejected to create a biased shortlist of candidates. If candidates recommended by the selection panel are rejected, they can only be replaced by others from the shortlist who have already been interviewed, according to the IEBC Act 2011.
Section 6(3) of the first schedule states that, "If the National Assembly rejects all or any subsequent nominee submitted by the Parliamentary Committee for approval, the Selection Panel shall forward to the President fresh names from the persons shortlisted and interviewed." The Act prevents dissenting MPs from dissolving the selection panel and states that the panel shall only "stand dissolved upon the appointments."
President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga appointed two members each to the selection panel while the other three represent professional bodies. The seven shortlisted 44 candidates for commissioners from 427 applications and eight candidates for chairman from 15 applications. Three IIEC commissioners - Yusuf Nzobu, Simiyu Wasike and Kenya Nyaundi - were interviewed by the selection panel.
The IIEC chairman Ahmed Issack is due to be interviewed for the post of IEBC chairman this week. The IIEC commissioners Douglas Mwashigadi, Tiya Galgalo, Hamara Ibrahim, Winnie Guchu and Davis Chirchir applied but were not among the 40 shortlisted to be interviewed by the panel. “We know for sure that someone is determined to ensure all the IIEC commissioners and the chairman don’t make it to the next commission,” an IIEC commissioner said.
The IIEC commissioners believe that they have been victims of a media smear campaign and that unknown individuals calling themselves "stakeholders in defence of the Constitution of Kenya" had presented the selection panel with a dossier against them in case they were invited for interviews.
Last week chairman Ekuru refused to deny or confirm that the selection panel would refer to the dossier, only saying, “share with us the documents." The dossier, titled "Seven Facts you did Not Know about the IIEC", alleged that Ken Nyaundi was a key strategist for William Ruto and had interfered with procurement and work on the Legal and Public Affairs Directorate.
Nyaundi faced a barrage of questions on his tenure at the IIEC from panellist Irene Keino during his interview. Keino told Nyaundi information had been provided to the panel that he influenced the appointment of law firms to represent IIEC at inflated fees. “It is a shock to me because the lawyers we have at IIEC are the ones we inherited from ECK. When we were faced with a lawsuit during the referendum, the chairman asked me which law firm would best represent IIEC and we ended up hiring Pheroze Nowrojee. You all know his character is beyond reproach,” Nyaundi replied.
Commissioner Mwashigadi was alleged to be a strategist for cabinet minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere and accused of being a "shrewd businessman and merchant of procurement at the IIEC, and allegedly influenced the appointment of regional election officers and constituency election coordinators in several constituencies". Davis Chirchir was accused of being Ruto's agent and influencing appointment of commission staff.
Winnie Guchu was described as a PNU's "spanner girl for the 2012 general elections rigging strategy. She is close to the powers that be and is confident that she must be the vice chairperson of the IEBC, come rain come shine." All the four commissioners have denied the allegations made against them.